Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Does J.Crew Still Heart Forever Jenna Lyons? {probably}

"Thanks!" to many of you, including st (in this post), who let us know about the following article from Page Six (click here to read in its entirety):
J.Crew’s Jenna Lyons told to ‘cut back on self-promotion’
By Emily Smith
December 21, 2014

J.Crew’s fabulous creative director Jenna Lyons is facing internal calls to cut back on her own self-promotion after the brand suffered a massive slowdown in its women’s business.

Sources tell Page Six that — after a dismal earnings report that saw the company go from a net income of $35.4 million to a reported loss of $607.8 million in just a year — style icon Lyons is being ordered by her bosses to focus more on the business and less on her own brand.

One source told us, “J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler is tired of Jenna Lyons being out on the circuit and not paying attention to business.”

While J.Crew’s sales slumped, company president and executive creative director Lyons had a guest role on “Girls” as Lena Dunham’s boss, graced a White House fashion summit, hired a ­4-year-old blogger who appeared with Lyons in publicity stills, attended Solange Knowles’ wedding in a runway-ready outfit, and appeared in spreads for Harper’s Bazaar, O Magazine, the New York Times, Vogue and Yahoo.

On top of that, she most recently schmoozed with the Duchess of Cambridge during the British royal’s visit to New York. And we also noticed that all the models at J.Crew’s recent Fashion Week presentations seemed to bear an uncanny resemblance to the much-admired, bespectacled Lyons.

The more low-key Drexler, who did not comment for this story, recently admitted to WWD that women’s apparel and accessory sales have been hit hard. On Dec. 5, Moody’s downgraded J.Crew for its weak sales figures. “We’ve had a very tough year and I, along with the team, own this,” Drexler told WWD. “We saw a significant slowdown in our women’s business. We own that even more. In that regard, we need to improve.”

He added that — even though we can’t imagine Lyons in jogging bottoms — the company would branch into leisure and athletic wear.

A J.Crew spokeswoman said, “This is completely inaccurate and couldn’t be farther from reality.”
Well, it is not surprising that J.Crew would deny this story. However, doesn't it feel like this story could totally be true??? It does seem like Jenna Lyons is everywhere as of late while the women's side of J.Crew has totally lost its focus.

We have mentioned before all the issues of where J.Crew needs to focus on. Refer to last month's "J.Crew's Women's Collection Is Costing Millions" post for a refresher. Frankly, I have noticed that customers are not as excited about J.Crew as they use to be. Don't get me wrong, there are still items that are selling out like crazy (Chateau Parka anyone?). However, there are way more items just lingering in the sale section (untouched and unwanted).

Do I think Jenna Lyons is at fault? No, not entirely. But she does bare some responsibility. She is at the helm of the ship and so she owns a part of J.Crew's current problems.


Personally, I think it is because her tastes have grown away from J.Crew. What do I mean? For awhile, Jenna was dressing like a fashion forward J.Crew customer. Now she is dressing fashion forward for the fashion forward world. Two different worlds as shown in the image above (both inset pictures are Jenna "before" and the main picture is Jenna "after".).

Listen, I don't dress the exact same way I did 10 years ago. The stores I shop at are different too. I understand that people grow and so do their tastes (including wardrobe). But let's not pretend that Jenna  is still a J.Crew customer. I fear she is not.

What are your thoughts on the article? Do you think it is true or not? Do you think Jenna Lyons should take a step back? Please share! :)

58 comments:

  1. She represents the company, so why not do some self-promoting... I wish the clothing looked good on me as it looks on her....She is my style icon! Too bad about the sales..

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    1. I agree, that she should totally do some self-promoting. And honestly, every time I read an interview with her she comes off very sweet and likeable.

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    2. I love Jenna's personal style too. I would like to see her incorporate more J Crew pieces into her outfits when she is out and about and photographed for print. She is so creative and I enjoy seeing how she mixes different designers clothing.
      My two cents on the loss of profits....bad fabrics and quality. Too much polyester. This year J Crew used less natural fabrics like wool, silk and cotton and more poly and synthetics. Even the coats have less wool content. I'm not interested in fabrics that will only look good for barely one season.

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    3. I'm not crazy about her personal style, but lately I rarely see her even wearing any J. Crew. She used to at least throw a little JC in w/her high end designer outfits. I'm not paying that close of attention but it doesn't look like she does that anymore.

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  2. Alexis - I agree that Jenna's tastes have moved past the core J Crew brand and that has probably been a factor in the misguided and unprofitable offerings.

    But there's a larger problem that has nothing to do with Jenna's celebrity. The (non-Collection) merchandise has been bland, ill-fitting, repetitive, pedestrian and gimmicky. The Collection items, which are more likely to be driven by Jenna's high fashion inclinations, have been pretty good IMO (and I wish I could afford to buy more!). It's the regular clothing that has been awful.

    So where is Tom Mora in all of this? Jenna is high profile, so of course she is taking the heat. And where is Mickey in all of this? He's the one who famously (infamously?) micromanages the output.

    Methinks that Jenna's personal promotion is not the problem here. I don't have any strong feeling for or against Jenna, but the finger-pointing strikes me as disingenuous and sexist.

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    1. So funny you should mention the finger pointing at Jenna! I thought it was a little weird that no one was looking at Mickey Drexler more closely. He definitely shares some of the blame in regards to J.Crew's current situation.

      As far as Jenna goes, I do think she is no longer a J.Crew customer. Not even for the Collection line. She has outgrown J.Crew and I do feel like that shows.

      With that said, I think the main issues with J.Crew are well described in last month's "J.Crew's Women's Collection Is Costing Millions" post. As you mentioned, the main line of merchandise is ill-fitting, repetitive, and not as exciting.

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    2. Completely agree re disingenuous and sexist.

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    3. I agree with you, Cousy.

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  3. I don't know what is going on with J Crew, but clearly ------------- they need to regroup. If that means getting rid of Mickey and Jenna, then so be it.

    We want nicely made clothing and shoes. Enough with the cheap reruns (Cece), unlined wool pants, and the ill-fitting unattractive sweaters!

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    1. Amen - unlined wool pants? Who the hell would ever, ever do that?

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  4. I don't think the brand should move in the same style direction that Jenna personally gravitates to now. That's part of the problem. The other part is that J. Crew has to remember that most people aren't built like Jenna. When you are very tall and very thin and striking looking, fashion is forgiving on you. Jenna could wear a paper sack and look great. J. Crew has to remember not to try to sell us paper sacks ;)

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    1. I don't really think Jenna looks that great, to be honest. She has her own way of dressing but for the most part I think it's somewhat theatrical. And those glasses of hers are just HIDEOUS.

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    2. AMEN to the HIDEOUS glasses. I think Jenna is an interesting woman, but I don't go gaga over everything she does or wears.

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    3. Definitely not my style icon anymore. At all. I like the way Olivia Palermo dresses.

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    5. Agreed ladies. Jenna is super-stylish, but in a fasion-insider way, not in a realistic everyday-woman kind of way. Olivia Palermo's style is much more accessible!!

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  5. Jesus. Why add another collection to an already struggling line of poorly made products? They need to get their crap together and return to the J.Crew of old, as so many of us have been saying. Let's make sweaters that don't pill on the first wear instead of launching a new line.

    All that aside, I have yoga pants from the original 2008 yoga wear run (I'm not against an active wear line!). I've worn them as riding breeches for YEARS, as well as just regular wear and they're still in fab shape. That's the kind of stuff we want to see again!

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  6. Great points. And I wonder ... why is the men's line so much more successful under the same leadership (Jenna and Mickey, anyway)?

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    1. IMO, Frank has done a tremendous job at keeping the Men's Collection on the classic side. We aren't terribly picky. Gimme a nice gingham. The occasional floral. And the tried and true stripe, both vertical and horizontal. We're lucky. Our "Collection" pieces are Wallace and Barnes. They're beautiful, well-constructed, masculine pieces that ooze a lifestyle that we, men, like to think we live.

      I think there are a few GREAT points here. Jenna is no longer a JC Customer. Alexis hit that on the nose! And I feel that she may be the driving force to what we're seeing happen with the Women's Items. I think If Frank had her position we may see the Men's Collection get more focus. He may try to push the envelope a little more. I think Tom is just doing what he's told by Jenna.

      I think Mickey needs to get his head back in the game. Make the tough decisions. HE is the reason that this brand grew exponentially, practically, overnight. He's got the right stuff, but IMO, maybe not the right people; Anymore.

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    2. Lately, I've thought a lot about why the Men's offerings have remained consistent over the years while the Women's have really suffered (as we have all discussed at length on this site) in the last few years. While much of the credit should go to Frank for the success on the Men's side, it just be as simple as the fact that they have stayed more true to the old "classic with a twist mentality"? As you said for the most part they stick with traditional colors, prints (stripes, checks, gingham, dots, plaids, etc) and styles...with maybe subtle updates such as changing the scale of a plaid or adjusting the fit/tailoring on a suit jacket. Are Men's lines just "easier" to design because there is less risk/trendiness than on the women's side? Ultimately, who is making the calls on the Women's side? Tom, Jenna, Mickey...do they all share a piece of the blame pie? In any case, I wish they would take a page out of Franks playbook and focus on classics with a twist and maybe revamp the "Collection" as the fashion forward line, but maybe focus on producing 4 or 5 smaller capsule collections a year....I think this would lower their "risk" of embracing the "wrong" trend. Anyway, these are the things I think about while waiting for promising signs of change.

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    3. While I know men's fashions change, I don't think they change as drastically or as quickly as women's fashions. I think it's probably easier to helm that side of things in terms of design and staying on trend. I'm not as familiar with the quality of men's clothing on that side, so can't comment on that.

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  7. I wonder if Jenna is even going to stick around with JCrew for much longer? She's very fashion forward and I can't see the brand going in her direction without taking harder hits in sales. I think Jenna would be very successful if she left the brand and started her own label.

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  8. Yeah, I'm #TeamJenna on this one.

    Once you get caught up in that game, being constantly photographed and critiqued on your outfits, you really have to keep upping the ante.

    I think that, in general, customers realize that Jenna can get away with wearing things that most people can't. What they want is clothing that makes them *feel* like they look like Jenna Lyons.

    That's where the real disconnect between the company/designers and the customer base is right now. Many people here have articulated that they feel like drop shoulders, baggy silhouettes, etc. make them look less-than-stellar, regardless of whether those things are "on trend" or not.

    If you don't feel good wearing the clothing, why would you pay J.Crew prices for it?

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  9. Yep, it's time for them to reinvent themselves

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  10. I love this blog because of the people on this site... and J. Crew used to be my go-to store of choice. Over the past several years, I've moved on as the fabrics have become thinner, and the suits become frumpy after a couple wears. I used to love J. Crew for its smart, clean look and style--that actually stands the test of time. Now, the jewelry feels cheap, the shoes are one step behind, and co-branding efforts seem to detract from rather than enhance the J.Crew name. I have stopped buying suits there altogether. J.Crew has lost its focus, and the rumors of an athletic line are upsetting as this is already a crowded (and overpriced) field. They need to trim down the number of 'designs,' and go back to the beautiful, rich fabrics and lines (and yes to lined pants!).

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way!

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    1. I completely agree! Can we all sign a petition?

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  11. Personally I think they should stay away from the athleisure thing, I don't care for it. I think it encourages sloppiness and JCrew isn't a sloppy look. We are we wanting to be wearing leggings and gym wear all the time and every where.
    Now I feel better.
    The reason the retail side is not doing well: boring styles, clothing that should be marked down and moved out is left to linger giving the stores an unappealing look.
    I have noticed less traffic the past few times I have visited as well.

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  12. I LOVED what Marissa Webb did at Banana Republic this season. Maybe the fabrics weren't always great but the styling was spot on, amazing. I could have bought the entire collection. J.crew needs to find another Marissa

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  13. I don't think Jenna Lyons is the big problem with Jcrew. There are 3 big things going on in my opinion. 1. Cost cutting to improve profit with cheaper materials (which of course only works if you sell stuff) 2. Overall fashion market changes: This year almost every retailer had drab dull colors, oversize boxy fits and clothing that did not appeal to me. 3. Getting too far away from the basics: no lined wool pants with belt loops, tippis not in the stores, discontinuing the Ceces and a lack of cute sweaters, blazers and pencil skirts which are Jcrew's bread and butter. I need a new navy sweater and would love a cute schoolboy and wool pants but there are none to buy. I have puchased an unheard of ZERO jcrew sweaters this fall season at any price! They just weren't as cute as usual! Please Jcrew fix it before my favorites wear out!

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    1. I completely agree ShoppingCelle! I miss J.Crew from 2007 or before. And for goodness sake please bring back my favorites, Cece's and Cafe Capris!

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    2. OMG! I need a new navy Tippi in the worst way, but navy has been gone from the site/stores for months. I don't want "midnight" and I HATE the Tilly...I just need a basic, flattering navy sweater to go with all my vintage pencil skirts (remember when JCrew used to make them in beautiful prints that weren't "Collection" and they used to sell out at full price...yes, me too!)

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    3. I miss the pretty printed pencil skirts too!

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    4. Me three - I so miss all the pretty pencil skirts. Now they all look like sacks - if they are that unflattering on the models, how are the rest of us going to look in them?

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  14. May I ask why you don't want the Tippi in "midnight?" I have it in that color and it looks like navy to me.

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    1. Blakemdjohns, I have both and the navy is a very dark blue, almost black. It is a classic navy, midnight is a good color but IMHO not navy.

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    2. I love both colors too, but they are very different. I need a new navy one ASAP.

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  15. OT....why no Jan. style guide ? I wonder if they pulled the guide to change it (after so many duds as of lately....)

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  16. In the past JCrew's navy was very dark...almost black and midnight is quite a bit lighter (plus I think it has a hint of green) and doesn't blend well with my JCrew vintage navy-based prints. I like midnight as a color but imo it's not navy.

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    1. Agree! I want the super dark navy sweater and not the midnight.

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    2. Ahhhh. I see. I can see what you mean about it being a bit of a brighter dark blue and not matching navy in other things. Which is one of the things I (used to?) love about J. Crew. You can take a skirt from years past and pair it with a sweater from a new season.

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  17. Hmmmm....sale ends in a few hours. Wondering what is coming next. I have had along time to order at 40% off...so if final sale starts I could really care less. I want or need nothing....It is a first for me. Darn it !!!

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  18. OK--- so I have been a HUGE J.Crew fan for 22 years. I still own my first JCrew dress... I was a fan of JL, and continue to be one, but I have to say she has taken the brand away from the cool prep, which is the core of what JCrew has been. XO

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    1. Right there with ya - ordered my first t shirt from them in 1994... Have been a big fan for many years, and even liked the changed thru the years (except for the decreasing quality) - up till this last year or so. Come on JC, be true to yourself! Trendy does not suit you!

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    2. I've been a big fan for years too, and still wear my black cotton cardigan that has silver floral embroidery going across the front of it. I'm not sure when I got it, but probably at least 15 years ago.

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    3. I have a gorgeous suiting vest from 1992. It's still in perfect condition and still, to this day, very stylish. Sigh.

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  19. I think it's silly to blame jenna's self-promotion, because when I go in a j. crew store, I never leave empty-handed because I think "jenna looked crazy on a street-style blog today." I think, "wow, these clothes are poorly made, unflatteringly cut, and too fast-fashion for these prices." blaming jenna for poor women's sales is unfair unless she is literally designing every piece, picking every fabric, approving every cut and fit, and putting together every single aspect of every single collection ... and there is no way she is doing that. look further internally than jenna for where your problems lie, j. crew.

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  20. I don't much care about Jenna's self-promotion activities; if the clothes weren't #$&% I would buy. Nothing on my wish list right now.

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  21. J Crew is suffering from what Jack Welch would call having your "as_" towards the customer. As many of you have noted, J Crew is no longer making clothes that meet the needs of its customers. That's why you have declining sales, inventory through the roof, declining profits, perpetual sales/promotions etc., etc. The fix(es) are doable; ti's a question of whether J Crew's leadership ie.. Mickey & Jenna have the will to do so. The worst mistake you can make at this point, if you're in leadership, is to point fingers. Blaming won't lead to a solution; it will just cause people to become more entrenched in their positions and to look for ways to save themselves. I like J Crew, so I hope they can make a comeback.

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  22. The dreaded Final Sale is back, I'm sure that will help move the inventory...

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    1. Especially WITHOUT % off...

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    2. I like the 40% off regular price merchandise though! I made a huge order last night but noticed everything I bought was a basic (turtlenecks, cable knit sweater, etc). Even with the promos, I'm not attracted to their shapeless/trendy items. I hope J Crew starts seeing what's moving and use data-driven approaches to Make their decisions.

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    3. I think sale is still 40% off? Not everything in there is marked Final Sale, I also noticed.

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  23. Personally, I am sick of Jenna. Sure, she's awesome and stylish. But IMO, J.Crew has basically become a cataloge of "what Jenna would wear" (god, just look at the models for the last few years - they are all styled to look like her) and that is not, what I believe, is the J.Crew brand. I used to spend multiple thousands at J.Crew every year, and now, I'm just done. It all bores me to death.

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  24. Between about 2006 and 2012 I spent an average of 4k per month at J.Crew. Since then I have been spending less than 1k every 3 months. Why? Unflattering styles and very poor quality!!! What happened? I am happy to spend $$$ on fashion-forward styles with high quality fabrics, cuts and construction. Why can't they fix this???

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  25. CA_Scientist: I'm with you. I used to drop a lot of $$$ at J. Crew when the styles were flattering, beautifully made and swoon worthy. I wouldn't think twice about snatching up cashmere sweaters, pencil skirts, perfect shirts, ballet flats, tartan anything and blazers (I'm thinking of you, Lexington and Oxford jackets!) at full price. Ever the optimist, I look forward to the JC presentations at NYFW and website rollouts only to be perpetually disappointed. Please come back to me, old J. Crew. How I loved you! Acrylic Bill Cosby sweaters, unlined pants, polyester blouses and dull shapless sacks, be gone!

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    1. So true! OK, I'll try to keep the hope alive...

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  26. I don't know. I think if anything, it's not necessarily Jenna Lyons or the styles, per se, that are driving the business down but the elevated costs! Everything is SO expensive at J.Crew now. A t-shirt is $40 or $50. It used to be $30. Granted, there are a lot of sales that somewhat make up for the mark ups but for the quality and the fact that most items are being made in China, I think a lot of people are put off. To be honest, I've been shopping a lot more at Madewell. It's weird how that is J.Crew owned yet somehow manages to be a little more edgy and well-priced.

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  27. p.s.: This is off-topic, but I did not receive my January catalog. Has anyone else?

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Dear J.Crew Aficionadas & Aficionados: Please feel free (and encouraged) to share your thoughts and opinions. :) However, please note that this is still a personal blog. So comments that are considered inappropriate (e.g. obscene, racist, homophobic, personal attacks, rude, and just plain mean) will be removed.

And now back to J.Crew! :)